End maths madness

30th June 2006 at 01:00
I have just come to the end of a three-year stint as a teacher fellow (mathematics education) at the Institute of Education, Stirling University.

During this time, I have had the opportunity to visit dozens of schools in Scotland. The majority of mathematics departments in these schools are implement-ing changes in the courses they offer.

In some cases, Standard grade has been abandoned in favour of National Qualifications (Access 3, Intermediate 1, and Intermediate 2) which are designed as post-fourth year courses; in others, Standard grade is being taught from second year onwards; a few make their students sit Intermediate 1 at the end of third year, and then go on either to re-sit this course or undertake Intermediate 2 the following year.

There are numerous other variations in how and when public examinations are taken.

In no instance have I been aware that these changes have been introduced as the result of any research or study. It is not educational theory that is underpinning major changes in Scottish mathematics education but merely the whims of individual teachers and headteachers.

Equally, little thought has been given to the implications of having so many variations in courses and their timings.

I am neither advocating a national curriculum nor attempting to take power of choice away from any individual authorities or departments.

This letter is an appeal for some element of coherence within Scottish mathematics education.

It is possible that this situation is being repeated in other subjects in other establishments; if so, then something needs to be done quickly before all schools and subjects are affected by this madness.

Paul Philippou

King Street

Perth

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